FLASHBACK: The Family Secrets mob trial

True Crime

The trial of Tough Tony 'The Ant' Spilotro's killers in Chicago. George Knapp covered the mob for years, including these reports from 2004 and 2007.

MYSTERY WIRE — In the summer of 2007, a who’s who of the Chicago mob were about to go on trial in what would become one of the most significant mob prosecutions in the city’s history. It would become known as the “Family Secrets” trial, the same name the FBI gave its investigation that led to the arrests.

KLAS-TV and Mystery Wire investigative reporter George Knapp had reported on the mob for years, focusing mainly on its activities in Las Vegas. In the August, 2004 story above, three years before a trial would begin, Knapp laid out the details of the Family Secrets FBI investigation in Chicago.

(Original Caption) Las Vegas, Nevada: Anthony Spilotro, who federal officials allege oversees mob activities for the Chicago underworld, sits in justice court in Las Vegas. He was arrested in connection with a Chicago indictment for two 1962 killings.

The indictment, filed in April 2005, named a total of 14 defendants, but only five were put on trial in the summer and early fall of 2007. Four of those five men, however, were notable figures in Chicago Mob circles at that time: acting boss James “Little Jimmy” Marcello; consigliere Joseph “Joey the Clown” Lombardo; South Side crew leader Frank “Frankie the Breeze” Calabrese Sr.; and the crime family’s West Coast representative, Paul “Paulie the Indian” Schiro, stationed in Arizona since the 1970s. The fifth defendant was Anthony “Twan” Doyle, a corrupt Chicago cop who for 20 years while on the force worked secretly as a messenger and street enforcer for the Outfit.

The Mob Museum – Las Vegas, NV

By mid-2007, with five mafia leaders were on trial, charged with various crimes including the murder’s of Tony Spilotro and his brother Michael. The two men were found dead, buried in a shallow grave in an Indiana cornfield.

In 2007, Knapp and photographer Matt Adams made the trip to Chicago to talk to the key players in the lead-up to the trial. In July 2007 they filed the three reports you can watch below.

In Chicago, federal prosecutors made the Spilotro murders a centerpiece of the prosecution. The case listed 18 murders in all, along with many other crimes.

Many people now know the “Casino” movie version of the Spilotro’s murders, but that’s not quite how it played out.   

Mobster turned informant Nick Calabrese was to testify that the Spilotro brothers were killed, not in Indiana, but instead, in a quiet suburb of Bensenville, Indiana.

Calabrese admitted he was one of the killers and also fessed up to participating in 14 other mob murders.

At the time of his murder, Tony Spilotro was facing three indictments in Las Vegas, but had returned to Chicago in the belief that he might be in line for a promotion in his hometown. Spilotro’s presumed boss, Joey “The Clown” Lombardo, allegedly signed off on the hit.

Indiana cornfield photos where Tony and Mike Spilotro were found buried. (Chicago Tribune file photo/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

The Spilotro brothers were wary about going to a meeting, but changed their minds about taking guns along, presumably because someone close to them put their minds at ease.

According to Calabrese, the Spilotro’s were picked up by James Marcello and were driven to the Bensenville suburb. When they got to the house, they were taken to the basement for the ceremony, and that’s where Marcello, Calabrese, and four other men beat them to death.

At least two men including hitman John Fecarotta, put the bodies in a car, took them to the corn field and buried them.

The bodies were never supposed to be found but were. For botching that job, Ferracotta was murdered by Nick Calabrese.

Years later, DNA evidence from that murder allowed the FBI to turn Calabrese into a witness, which led to the indictments of all the others.

After ten weeks of testimony, on September 10, 2007 a federal grand jury found five mobsters guilty in a racketeering conspiracy covering years of extortion, loan sharking, and murder.

RELATED: Operation Family Secrets – fbi.gov

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